The SJC English Department presents The Speaker Series:
Jordan Alexander Stein’s Talk at SJU: “Queering Slavery and Abolition”
Thursday, March 3, at 5:30 PM-6:30 PM; the room will be announced; SJU’s Queens Campus.
Synopsis: Devoting an entire chapter of A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to “Separation of Families,” Harriet Beecher Stowe propounded what might be considered the capstone of the inexhaustible abolitionist trope of the broken slave family: “The worst abuse of the system of slavery is its outrage upon the family; and, as the writer views the subject, it is one which is more notorious and undeniable than any other.” But if it is indeed “notorious” that slavery unmade families, it’s much less often recognized that anti-slavery discourse went a long way toward making them in the first place. The abundant mediascape and distribution networks of the anti-slavery movement committed enormous—and in the US unprecedented—energies to edifying the agency and power of domestic life. In ways that have not been significantly explored, abolitionist media is animated by ideological presuppositions about the inevitability of domestic familial life and the naturalness of gender roles. This talk argues that abolitionist media is a significant agent for the nineteenth-century in the development of what comes to be called heteronormativity in the twentieth century.
Bio: Jordan Alexander Stein is Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University. His research focuses on historiographic and theoretical methodologies across three centuries of colonial Anglophone and early US literature. With Justine S. Murison he co-edited a special issue of Early American Literature on “Methods for the Study of Religion” in 2010, and with Lara Langer Cohen he co-edited Early African American Print Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). His critical non-fiction has appeared in venues such as Avidly, The Awl, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and Slate. His research has been supported by fellowships from the Library Company of Philadelphia, the New-York Historical Society, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In 2012, he co-directed the American Antiquarian Society’s summer seminar in the history of the book, on “African American Cultures of Print.” He is completing a monograph on novel reading in the Protestant Atlantic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.